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Butterfield Sr. Center Lease OK’d After Raucous Meeting

By Eric Gross

For the second time this month, it was standing room only at the historic Putnam Courthouse Tuesday evening for a marathon meeting of the Putnam County Legislature.

Following two hours of heated debate, the Legislature’s Physical Services Committee consisting of Carl Albano of Carmel, Barbara Scuccimarra of Garrison and Joseph Castellano of Southeast approved a lease agreement with Butterfield Realty LLC that will allow the county to rent 6,000 square feet of space at the Lahey Pavilion in Cold Spring for a new senior center. The matter will now be placed on the agenda of next month’s full legislature meeting.

More than 125 people crowded into the second-floor courtroom where division reigned supreme among three groups: Senior citizens pleading for a new center on the western side of the county, a group of construction workers who called on the lawmakers to approve the project in order to create jobs, as well as a loud group of primarily Philipstown and Cold Spring residents who strongly objected to the lease due to its cost.

Chairman Albano stated the revised cost of the project was $1,280,000 to renovate and outfit the center.

Donna Anderson, a senior from Garrison, presented the lawmakers with a petition signed by 370 residents urging the county to “implement our center. The current senior center is simply inadequate.”

Another senior, Shirley Norton, commended the legislators for their “due diligence. I trust you. We must get on with this already.”

Others weren’t as positive, and the comments appeared to spring from the same coordinated attacks that kept the project mired in reviews at the village level for so long. Lourdes Laifer of Cold Spring charged that the lease was “good for the developer and lousy for the taxpayer. The process has been shrouded in secrecy.”

One woman demanded to see a lease.

Albano explained that a lease had been signed. Legislator Kevin Wright charged that a “gap existed in the process since a bonding resolution is needed before a lease is signed.”

The committee in a separate resolution approved a bond resolution for $800,000 for the center which was moved to the Audit Committee for its review next week.

Legislature Chairwoman Ginny Nacerino told her colleagues and the large audience: “This will encompass all needed funding for the project.”

But the question over the lease recurred.

Cold Spring Mayor David Merandy demanded to know: “Why can’t we see the lease? Why can’t we get a copy? The process has not been transparent from Day One. We don’t want to derail the center – only understand it.”

Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea agreed that the “issue of a senior center must be resolved but we must negotiate the best lease possible.”

Catcalls emanated from the audience: “Show us the lease!” was heard time and time again.

Laura Hoffman rose to her feet: “I am enraged by the actions of this legislature. It is a disgrace. You are supposed to be working for the community and not the developer.”

Ed Cook of Mahopac, a leader for the Building Trades Union, stated that his rank and file was “in favor of this project. More than 10,000 tradesmen pay taxes in Putnam County. It is imperative that the seniors of western Putnam get their center.”

Another union representative, Tom O’Brien, reminded the audience that the “rank and file union workers will construct a building that we all will be proud of. The job will be completed on budget. The job will be done right the first time.”

Pat Sheehy, Director of the Office for Senior Resources, charged that Putnam’s senior citizens had become “disillusioned.

The seniors want a site constructed at Butterfield. We must trust the legislators for proceeding in the right fashion. If they don’t they will be voted out of office. It’s unfortunate that we lost the Ailes’ donation but we must all come together on this critical issue.”

Sheehy was referring to a donation of $500,000 from the family of Roger Ailes, of Garrison. He withdrew the donation after vehement opposition to the family’s efforts earlier this month. That cost will now be borne by taxpayers.

Questions surrounding the lease continued. Nancy Montgomery, Philipstown deputy supervisor, queried: “Why is this lease so secretive? Why wasn’t it forwarded to Philipstown officials?”

Stephanie Hawkins, another critic of the project and a former trustee, charged that the “lease is not good for the people of Putnam County – all of the people. The legislature is creating a tax abatement for private industry.”

Kathleen Foley chimed in: “Trust must be earned. This has become the most landlord friendly project ever. A lovely and modest facility should be possible.”

Following the heated debate, Albano assured the audience that there was “no secrecy. This is a process. Purchasing the building was never an option. Bond rates are at all time lows. We will bond the difference in cost.”

Legislator Dini LoBue, who sided with those opposed to the lease agreement, charged that the project was “pro-developer. This is a bad deal for the taxpayers.” She received raucous applause.

But Legislator Albano said the county wants to “have a presence on the western side of the county. Our intentions were genuine from the beginning and continue to be so.”

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Victory at Last for Philipstown Seniors

By Tim Greco & Douglas Cunningham

 

The last battle at the Butterfield development was determined in less than an hour when the Planning Board on Thursday night passed the final piece of the parking puzzle, clearing the way for a new Philipstown Senior Center at the Lahey Pavilion.

And less than three business days later, County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker and Fred Pena, county commissioner of Highways and Facilities, reported that the county is moving as rapidly as possible to bring the Senior Center to fruition. They met Tuesday morning, continuing into the afternoon, in a cramped office at Lahey to review plans with Elizabeth Ailes, whose family is spearheading the renovation and then donating the finished product to the county for use by the town’s seniors. Butterfield developer Paul Guillaro, County Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra and Pat Sheehy, director of the Office for Senior Resources, also joined the gathering Tuesday morning in Cold Spring.

“The seniors will have a beautiful new facility with programs to keep them active, entertained and healthy,” Odell said. “Moreover, they will enjoy the added benefits of additional housing, shopping and shuttle transportation as part of the overall Butterfield redevelopment objective.”

The county recently announced that Todd Zwigard Architects was awarded the design contract on this project, which encompasses the redesign of the Carolyn Lahey Pavilion on the Butterfield campus. A 6,000 sq. ft. section of the building will house a new state-of-the-art senior center. Two professionals affiliated with the firm, architect Dana Hochberg and mechanical engineer Clifford Stevens, along with builder Ray Memmel, who will do the renovation on behalf of the Ailes’ family non-profit, also took part in Tuesday’s inspection. A new Post Office will also be in the building, but that renovation is being undertaken separately from the senior center.

County leaders and building experts involved in the new Philipstown Senior Center met Tuesday to speed things along. Shown are County Executive MaryEllen Odell, fourth from left, as Clifford Stevens, a mechanical engineer, and Dana Hochberg, architect, center rear, review the plans with her. Others at the session, from left, were builder Ray Memmel, county architect Ben Harrison, Fred Pena, county commissioner of Highways and Facilities, county Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra (right rear), Pat Sheehy, director of the Office for Senior Resources, and developer Paul Guillaro. Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker and Elizabeth Ailes also attended. Chris Layton

County leaders and building experts involved in the new Philipstown Senior Center met Tuesday to speed things along. Shown are County Executive MaryEllen Odell, fourth from left, as Clifford Stevens, a mechanical engineer, and Dana Hochberg, architect, center rear, review the plans with her. Others at the session, from left, were builder Ray Memmel, county architect Ben Harrison, Fred Pena, county commissioner of Highways and Facilities, county Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra (right rear), Pat Sheehy, director of the Office for Senior Resources, and developer Paul Guillaro. Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker and Elizabeth Ailes also attended. Chris Layton

Odell said she’s pleased that the delays have been cleared away. “Now, we can get down to real progress on the planning and construction of this long-awaited new senior community center for Philipstown residents.”

Scuccimarra was also ecstatic: “I’m just glad our seniors are finally getting the senior center we’ve all worked so hard for, for such a long time.” She added it was a tremendous relief that the village Planning Board and county were now in agreement regarding the location of the center.

Thursday night’s Planning Board meeting drew a similar who’s who, including Walker, County Legislators Scuccimarra and Carl Albano, Philipstown Councilman Bob Flaherty, senior advocates Shirley Norton and Donna Anderson, and Mayor Dave Merandy and his wife, former trustee Stephanie Hawkins. Guillaro and his lawyer Steve Barshov sat in the first row.

The planning meeting opened with chair Matt Francisco joined by fellow planners Judith Rose, Arne Saari and Ezra Clementson (Dave Marion was absent from the proceeding and final vote). At the top of the meeting, Francisco, in what some saw as a highly unusual step, read a detailed, unsigned letter opposing the parking at the site. Francisco said the initial plan was to have all of the paperwork a week in advance, but the needed SEQRA (environmental review) paperwork was completed just two hours before the meeting and the parking plan that morning. “So we are going to have to sit here and actually do some work,” he said. The board then hashed out the parking plan out loud and took time to make changes. Guillaro, with plans in hand, helped the planners to find four more “conforming” parking spaces, or 211, up from 207 currently. Twenty one other “nonconforming” spaces that are slightly shorter or narrower than code were also maintained.

The meeting was marked with a spirit of cooperation on all sides. It was also determined that the plan may have to once again go before the Historic District Review Board should the Building Inspector deem it necessary, because new doors will have to be cut into the current building. It was noted that the Lahey Pavilion was not a historic building in itself but is in the historic district.

At the end of the meeting Anderson and Norton seemed drained, but relieved. This last meeting of the Planning Board also clears the way for the county for finalize the 15-year lease with Guillaro for the senior center.

Meanwhile, construction continues on Building 2; once it is finished, the medical offices now there will move to the new structure, and Lahey will then be empty and ready for the overhaul. Via the Office for Senior Resources, the county will manage the senior center, which will accommodate up to 100 people. The facility will feature social events, education, computers and access to counseling. The Ailes’ family gift amounts to $500,000 in construction and renovation work that will not have to be borne by county taxpayers. The gift from Roger Ailes, of Garrison, includes his $250,000 Bradley Foundation prize, which he won in 2013, and a like amount from his family’s personal funds.

Mrs. Ailes is overseeing the work on behalf of her family. Discussion Tuesday among the building professionals included the placement of the Timme Arch (which was saved from the former Butterfield Hospital), as well as a host of other items relating to the senior center and its outfitting. The Ailes family had earlier requested that developer Guillaro continue to refer to the structure by its existing name, the Lahey Pavilion.

Mr. Ailes said Tuesday that seniors he speaks with in Philipstown, of all political stripes, almost uniformly support the project. He noted the strong support of Odell, a Republican, from the county level, and added, “Republicans and Democrats are for it. Senator Chuck Schumer always steps forward for our seniors.”

And now, the project is moving rapidly ahead at last. Building plans for the interior are due to be delivered in July, with construction for the new center set for November. Completion is anticipated as rapidly as possible in spring 2017.